Four HBCU football players, including the 2021 Jerry Rice Award winner, were among the 35 players named to the Walter Payton Award watch list.

On Wednesday, Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders; South Carolina State wide receiver Shaq Davis; Florida A&M receiver Xavier Smith and Bethune-Cookman tight end were added to the list compiled by Stats Perform, which presents the award to the national offensive player of the year in the FCS.

Last season, Smith recorded 64 receptions (fourth in SWAC) for 713 receiving yards (sixth in SWAC) and three touchdowns.

Also read: Travis Hunter headlines HBCU players named preseason FCS All-Americans

Not only was he effective in the passing game, but he was also big on special teams as a kick and punt returner. In 20 total returns, Smith amassed 289 total yards.

He was named to the Stats Perform and Hero Sports All-American teams despite not being selected to the All-SWAC team.

Averett was the only player in the SWAC to have at least 50 receptions, 800 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He scored a touchdown in all but three games and had five games with at least 90 receiving yards.

Davis gained national prominence during South Carolina State’s 31-10 win over Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl where he caught three touchdown passes. In 2021, Davis had 38 receptions for 747 yards and eight TDs.

Sanders headlines the list coming off a season where he won the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the FCS.


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